Psychology Lecturer researches attendee adherence to COVID-19 safety guidance

Dr Anne Templeton researches attendee adherence to COVID-19 guidance as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Events Research Programme

Dr Anne Templeton was invited by the DCMS Events Research Programme to join the science board as a research observer in March 2021. Working alongside her as a research assistant was Kayleigh Smith, a current student studying the MSc Psychological Research programme. The team also included Jennifer Dang Guay, who graduated from the MSc Psychological Research programme in 2021, and Oliver Ellis, a MA Psychology graduate from the class of 2021.

Working on the first two phases of the project, Dr Templeton’s and Kayleigh’s work involved surveying and interviewing attendees to get their perceptions of the COVID-19 safety guidance and their experiences of the event. Attendees of events were across a number of football matches, including the 2021 FA Cup Final, the 2021 Snooker World Championship and a music festival at Sefton Park in May.

By comparing observed data of attendee behaviour to their self-report data, Dr Templeton and Kayleigh found that one reason adherence to physical distancing guidance was lower in open-air and outdoor events was because attendees perceived these types of events had a lower risk of transmission. Similarly, during events where there were higher number of people attending, attendees felt less able to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

They found the main reasons why attendees did not adhere to physical distancing or mask wearing were associated with many people not able to (for example all attendees leaving at the same time or queueing in the same place), or lack of clarity about expected behaviour (for example not being able to hear live announcements during the events). Pre-event communications were perceived as most effective for understanding the COVID-19 guidance and allowed participants to plan safe behaviour at events.

Their findings were reported back to the DCMS science board and they also assisted with the presentation of findings to UK Government officials.

Being involved in this Events Research Programme gave us a unique opportunity to understand the reasons why people do (or do not) follow COVID-19 guidance at organised crowd events. Across all events, our results show the importance of group processes in facilitating or hindering adherence. Ultimately, the results provide insights into how organisers of large events can facilitate safe attendee behaviour during COVID-19 by providing the attendees with the clear information about how to act safely, resources to act safely, and working with attendees to find alternative behaviours to those that are typically normative but may lead to disease transmission.

Dr Anne Templeton
Dr Anne Templeton

About Anne Templeton

Dr Templeton’s primary research interest is applying the social identity approach to intra and intergroup processes. Her research focusses on crowd psychology and using principles of social identity to improve crowd safety in emergencies and at mass events.

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